The plant closing is both a sign of the vanishing United States manufacturing sector and the recent economic downturn. The company, which sells windows for use in home construction, has suffered tremendously due to the sluggish economic conditions, which are even bleaker in the housing market.
Employees, however, have decided to engage in creative protest. Since last Friday, they have occupied the factory and say they will remain inside unless the company promises severance and vacation pay. Employees also invoked the Wall Street bailout in their protests. Bank of America, a creditor of Republic Windows and Doors, canceled the company's line of credit, which apparently prevents it from paying workers. Employees used the situation to politicize the disparate levels of federal relief that financial institutions have received relative to manufacturing and other commercial sectors:
"Across cultures, religions, union and nonunion, we all say this bailout was aI think the workers made a great decision to bring the disparate treatment of "Main Street" and "Wall Street" to the table. Both parties and presidential candidates made decisions that favored monied interests. None can claim innocence.
shame," said Richard Berg, president of Teamsters Local 743. "If this bailout
should go to anything, it should go to the workers of this country."
Outside the plant, protesters wore stickers and carried signs that said,
"You got bailed out, we got sold out."
Legal Issues: It is difficult to analyze legal issues from media accounts of this situation, particularly because the reports only present the opinion of the union. Furthermore, I have not located any analysis from labor law experts on this subject.
While the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act requires companies with over 100 full-time employees to provide notice to workers 60 prior to a shutdown or mass layoffs, it contains a couple of exceptions that could operate in this situation. The law does not require notification when a shutdown or mass layoff results from "unforeseeable business circumstances" that preclude timely notice. It also does not require notice from a "faltering company," when announcing a shutdown could hinder the company from seeking financing which would keep the business running.
The Illinois law on this issue contains similar exceptions. The media reports, however, do not permit a determination regarding the potential applicability of these exceptions.
Related reading: Dodd's Discriminatory Bailout: "Regime Change" for Main Street, But Not for Wall Street?